'One in ten tenants harassed'

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The Independent Online
NEARLY one in ten private tenants is harassed each year as landlords go unchecked, says a report published yesterday, writes Rhys Williams.

The year-long study by the Campaign for Bedsit Rights, which represents tenants' interests, found that single mothers and ethnic minorities were most likely to suffer. The report says that since the 1988 Housing Act, which deregulated private landlords to encourage letting, the private rented housing sector has gone out of control.

Phil Jew, the report's author, said: 'Thousands of tenants suffer in silence unaware of their rights and too frightened or poor to pursue them. The Government is actively encouraging private landlords to let out rented homes and is pumping in subsidies to them through housing benefits, while turning a blind eye to widespread harassment and illegal eviction by landlords.'

The report says that each year 150,000 private tenants face burglary, trespass, threats, verbal abuse and violence from landlords wishing to sell or re-let their property.

The campaign believes 80 per cent of households experiencing harassment or eviction never report it to local authorities, through ignorance of the law or fear of reprisals. Yet, the report says, only 200 landlords were prosecuted each year, and the majority received fines of less than pounds 500.

Law and Order in Private Rented Housing; Campaign for Bedsit Rights, 7 Whitechapel Road, London E1; pounds 13.99 for institutions, pounds 6.99 for voluntary organisations, free for tenants.